Building a Legacy

The Class of 1966's united funding effort

Aug. 16, 2016 — The Class of 1966's 50th Reunion gift is the largest such gift in the history of the College — $4 million — $1.6 million more than the previous record set by the Class of 1962. One million dollars of the amount raised will go toward the Class of 1966 Scholarship, which will fund one student's entire Grinnell experience — one of only two such scholarships established by an individual class. So far more than $70,000 has been designated for a named space in the planned Humanities and Social Studies Complex (for its 25th Reunion, the Class of '66 designated funds for the Writing Lab in Alumni Recitation Hall). There are further designations for financial aid, the Pioneer Fund, and a number of personal passions of the individual class members. The total encompasses outright gifts, pledges, and planned gifts.

Co-class fund director Jim Holbrook attributes the success of his class's giving to a combination of the right people and the right circumstances. Holbrook and co-class fund director Laurie Hill worked with class agent Ruth Bergerson and the fundraising team of David Maxwell, Anne Campbell Spence, and Ed Atkins. Although Holbrook emphasizes each person's specialty and the significance of their contributions to the class's efforts, he singled out Bergerson for her long-term commitment. “Ruth is the golden thread on whom we have strung all our beads of memory,” Holbrook says. He also speaks of her as a maternal figure to the whole class. “She holds us together,” he says, “And she shares information about all of our far-flung siblings.”

Jim's own contribution is not to be ignored. He made a substantial planned gift that served as the lead gift for the class. What really “blew the doors off,” he says, was an anonymous seven-figure gift.

The Class of '66 succeeded in breaking both the total giving record and the class participation record. The class set the bar high with a goal of 66 percent participation and managed to surpass it, reaching 67 percent participation.

Jim attributes the class's fundraising success to a healthy level of competition with the Class of 1965 and work on the class's memory book. But more than anything else, it was the forces that shaped the Class of '66 while they were students in the early to mid-1960s. In October of their first year, they witnessed the Cuban Missile Crisis. The following year John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The Gulf of Tonkin incident colored 1964, and 1965 saw a massive increase in troops being sent to Vietnam. Each summer a number of students would travel to the South and participate in the civil rights movement. And when students weren't directly involved in world-shaping events, they followed them closely on television. The seismic shifts happening across the United States and the world resonated with these students and shaped their views and politics, but it also drew them together.

The class is collectively considering its legacy. Its members want to contribute to the well-being of the world, and they choose to do that by providing access and resources to future Grinnellians.